President Obama today created a smaller expansion of the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument than supporters sought as a way of creating more ecologically sensible boundaries and preparing the unique area for the impacts of climate change.
A week before leaving the White House, Obama used the federal Antiquities Act to add 47,624 acres of public land — 42,349 acres in Oregon and 5,275 acres in California — but less than the more than 66,500 acres sought by supporters and drafted by Oregon's two U.S. senators, Democrats Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley.
The monument's new 137,500-acre footprint now stretches northwest past Dead Indian Memorial Road, west to Emigrant Lake, east into Klamath County and south into California near Iron Gate Reservoir.
The initial monument created by Bill Clinton using the same act in his waning hours as president covered about 66,000 acres within an 85,000-acre footprint inside Jackson County east of Ashland.
Supporters hailed the expansion to better protect the "spectacular biological diversity" and the rare plants, animals and other "objects of interest" cited in Clinton's proclamation that created the monument in 2000.
"It's a very good day for our region and all the interesting creatures out there," said Jack Williams, a Medford man and a senior scientist for Trout Unlimited who helped craft a 2011 report whose conclusions supported expansion. "I think we got pretty much everything we'd hoped for in this."
Williams noted that the expansion included higher-elevation lands that will help protect water sources for places such as Jenny Creek and its rare trout, "and that's a big help from a climate-change standpoint," he said.
Jackson County Commissioner Colleen Roberts said she was disappointed by news of the expansion, but was grateful the expansion was not the 66,500 acres originally proposed and vetted during the commissioners' October public hearing.
"I'm very disappointed, but they did make some concessions and were listening to some of the testimony," Roberts said.
With only days left in Obama's presidency, Roberts said she had been hopeful the monument wouldn't be expanded.
The new footprint includes 4,917 acres of state-owned land in California that are not part of the monument.
Like the roughly 19,000 acres of private land already inside the monument, the 32,977 acres of additional private land inside the new boundary would remain private and not part of the monument. Of the new private lands within the new monument footprint, 32,576 acres are within Oregon and 401 acres are in California.
The expansion does not block public access to the public lands within its boundaries, but it could lead to some changes in how those lands are accessed.
The Bureau of Land Management, which manages the monument, is mulling a draft transportation plan that would close or decommission anywhere from 6 to 165 miles of the 412 miles of roads within the former monument boundary.
BLM spokesman Jim Whittington said the agency's Medford District officials don't yet know what impact today's designation has on that draft plan.
County commissioners previously took a stance against the monument expansion, saying they worry about logging restrictions, loss of timber revenue and reduced public access.
Jackson County Commissioner Rick Dyer said reduced vehicle access to the monument will impact people who are less physically able to get around, and could hamper the ability of firefighters to reach wildfires within the monument's boundaries.
"It will impact Southern Oregon residents and residents everywhere who want to access it," he said.
The ecological argument for expansion is made via a 2011 study that since has been signed by 85 scientists in support.
Ashland and Talent city councils and chambers of commerce previously expressed their support for the proposed expansion, saying an expansion would further protect the environment of the area, improve the quality of life, enhance recreation and boost tourism.
Reach Mail Tribune reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MTwriterFreeman.
Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument expansion map by Mail Tribune on Scribd
President Obama's proclamation expanding Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument by Mail Tribune on Scribd